Exploring the Detriments of the Digital Carbon Footprint in Marketing

The digital marketing industry has undoubtedly revolutionised the way businesses promote their products and services. With the widespread adoption of technology and the internet, it has become easier for brands to reach out to their target audience and engage with them.

The rapid growth of digital marketing has, in part, come from claims that it’s more eco-friendly than conventional marketing methods. Afterall, it has no physical presence compared to printed media and in-person sales pitches, right? Unfortunately, digital marketing is not completely guilt-free when it comes to carbon emissions.

How Can Digital Marketing Still Have a Carbon Footprint?

Whilst the development of an E-commerce sphere has the intentions of creating a greener planet, this common misconception could not be further from reality. Digital marketing still produces an astounding amount of carbon emissions which is produced by the industry's activities; this includes everything from powering data centres and servers to producing electronic devices and manufacturing components.

For example, a study by Playground xyz examined 45 million ad impressions and found that the average digital ad campaign releases 5.4 tons of carbon into the atmosphere – that’s close to what the average person emits in an entire year! The good news is, that same study estimates digital ad campaigns can reduce their carbon emissions by an average of 63% if they’re optimised for attention time.

Moving forward, it is important to confront the reality that digital marketing is still damaging our ecosystem and urge electronic users to exercise ways to reduce their ‘e-carbon footprint’.

One of the main contributors to the carbon footprint of digital marketing is the mass volume of data centres around the world. The number of internet users is now estimated to be 4.95 billion globally. With this many users, and the astronomical speed they have come to expect, there has had to be an increase in facilities solely responsible for storing and processing excessive amounts of data. These facilities require a considerable amount of energy to operate.

According to a report by the Natural Resources Defence Council, data centres in the United States alone consumed over 91 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2013, which is equivalent to the energy consumption of 34 large coal-fired power plants.

So, what can marketing teams do to be mindful of their digital carbon footprint?

1. Cut Down on Emails - The average carbon cost of an email is 0.3g of CO2 or 50g of CO2 for long emails that take 10 minutes to write and includes an image. This is equivalent to one whole tree. So, think before you click send on that ‘Thankyou’ email, regularly clear out your inbox, reduce the amount of people you cc into emails, and consciously unsubscribe from unwanted newsletters. As a marketing team, you should also discuss your email strategy and see how many emails you really need to send.

2. Repair or Recycle Your Devices - With the increasing demand of electronic devices, there is also a catastrophic increase in the amount of landfills across the globe. In 2022, the world’s population owned 16 billion mobile phones and it’s estimated that 5.3 billion of those mobile devices went to waste. That’s not taking into consideration computers, tablets, and other cameras. A simple way to help stop the avalanche of landfills is to get your electronic devices repaired instead of replacing them so often. Alternatively, you can donate them to be recycled.

3. Choose Eco-Friendly Providers – If you manage your company’s own website, you could look at using a more sustainable website provider. Green web hosts, like GreenGeeks, use energy-efficient initiatives at their data centres and invest in carbon offsetting. You could also choose an energy provider that uses renewable sources and invest in energy efficient tech for your team.

4. Streamline Your Website – Speaking of websites, there’s a lot you can do even if you can’t change your web host – and it’ll even benefit your SEO and User Experience at the same time! Simple things like ensuring image files are a small as possible, turning off video auto-play, optimising your page load time, and regularly auditing your site for out-of-date content, will all help to reduce your website’s carbon footprint. Try putting your site through a free carbon calculator to find out where to start.

Ultimately, the influencers that dominate the digital industry need to start using their power to promote awareness within their networks. Encouraging everyone to adopt sustainable practices, will soften the significant challenge that we are facing and, truthfully, this issue requires urgent attention. By promoting efficient practices, technologies, and campaign strategies, we can reduce the industry's carbon footprint and promote a more sustainable future.

Marketing Meetup

The information from this blog was gathered at a recent Marketing Meetup in Leeds which we are proud to sponsor! These events are an informal, friendly place for the marketers to meet, learn, and share knowledge with one another.

If you’d like to attend or are interested in finding out more information, contact Kara, our Marketing Division Lead, on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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